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Scotch At $150 A Sip

Marc Pendlebury saw water when many saw the desert. He gave up a life of computers to sell whisky at $4,700 a bottle.

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It was his love for the finest things in life that spurred on this computer science graduate to open up South Africa’s first shop selling nothing but whisky.

The son of a butcher, Marc Pendlebury was in his early twenties when he tasted his first drop of whisky. Soon it became his drink, while he was a computer science student in the United States.

He moved back to South Africa in 2004, landing his first job as a developer then later becoming a performance manager. A few years in the job, Pendlebury became a business analyst in the financial services sector. As the years went on, Pendlebury was progressing from being a casual whisky drinker to one who wanted to know more about it.

A gift of an 18-year-old Glenfiddich single malt Scotch that would become a catalyst in his appreciation for premium whiskies.

“I knew it was a special bottle. Obviously, it was expensive. It wasn’t something you saw everywhere. It was older than most whiskies. It was one of the catalysts on my journey,” says Pendlebury.

“I remember vividly, even at my age then, that bottle lasted me over a year. Most guys at the age of 22 or 23 are not going to keep a bottle like that for a year. For me it was on a special occasion. I poured myself one, and my friend was a whisky enthusiast as well, so we’d pour this whisky every now and again. We’d share a moment and make it memorable.”

So, when Twitter came along, Pendlebury opened an account and called it. Here he would exchange views and facts about whiskies with likeminded tweeters.

But 140 characters were not enough. So he started a blog with the same name. From here his following grew.

Between his job and his new found hobby of writing about whiskies, and visiting distilleries around the world, he had an epiphany. He realized that South Africa didn’t have a shop that sold only whisky.

Most South African’s bought their whisky from wholesalers that didn’t bother to sell high-end bottles of whisky.

“It made sense that a store like this would work, if you kind of captured the market. Four or five years ago, I wasn’t ready to do it. I started thinking about it more and more. And I kept thinking that if no one has done it and I’m ready to it then I’ll give it a go,” says Pendlebury.

“I was bored, it was corporate. It was at that stage in my career where I’d look around for another job or gone to my senior managers and said ‘look I need a bigger challenge.’”

Instead he quit.

And with no business training or retail experience Pendlebury opened a whisky shop. He learned he had to raise capital for this store. He sold his car and scooter, and cashed in his provident fund. Other challenges were finding a location and cutting through red-tape of getting a liquor license which delayed the shop from opening.

But in 2012, there was Christmas cheer from South African whisky enthusiasts. Four years after Pendlebury started the blog, he opened one of South Africa’s only whisky boutique stores at the swanky Hyde Park Corner.

“It’s more affluent than anywhere else in Joburg. And it’s not about mass volume of traffic but there’s a good conversion in the traffic you do get. There’s far fewer people coming through the door, but in terms of disposable income, it’s much higher,” says Pendlebury.

“What I don’t need is to set up a store that has a 100 people come in a day but only 10 people buy. I’d rather have 15 people come in a day and 10 people buy. That’s kind of what I’m seeing.”

The bare brick walled store is quiet, lined with bottles of liquid sunshine placed on wooden shelves from the cold tiled floor to the ceiling. The bottles come from Japan, Scotland, Ireland and the United States.

Near the back of the store are the premium bottles, shelved in a glass door cupboard.

This is where you will find a Bruichladdich single malt Scotch going for R3,300 ($310) a bottle, a Port Ellen for R8,700 ($830) and a 40-year-old single malt Glenfiddich, waiting to be picked up by a customer for R49,000 ($4,700).

And the best way to enjoy a glass of these pricey whiskies is fine, neat and without ice, in a quiet corner.

“A fine whisky should be drunk in a fine manner. It should be about appreciating what’s there and that means the circumstances allow you to appreciate what’s there. If you’re overwhelmed and your senses are being bombarded, how are you really going to appreciate a 21-year-old Balvenie? With that said, whisky is very versatile but don’t waste your time on something fine if you can’t appreciate what it is,” says Pendlebury.

Since the store opened, the 33-year-old says any entrepreneur that doesn’t think they need to work hard is kidding themselves.

“It cannot be any other way, if you’ve managed to raise capital for a project, and you’re the driver behind that project, you have to be involved particularly in the short term to an extended amount. My hope is after a year or so, I can remove myself from the daily running of the business. That’s not my specialty,” says Pendlebury.

“Last night, as an example, I worked from 10 until three, closed the store, came in with one of my guys and cleaned the store. Who else is going to do it? I mean, this is my baby. In time, the less skilled daily requirements of the business can be done by other guys.”

With nearly two years of running the store, Pendlebury says cash flow continues to be a challenge, along with keeping the customers happy. At least for now he’s found a solution to keeping customers satisfied – by bringing in new brands every two weeks.

“I’m very pleased with the performance. But obviously, as a new business, cash flow is still an issue. My cash flow is managed on a daily basis to make sure I can pay for the right stock, at the right time, I can pay my overheads, I can pay my rental for the space, pay for salaries, etc. So it’s still tight, we’re definitely not out of the clear yet, but we’re on our way to being safe. I can see that it is viable and that with a little bit more time we will be sustainable as well,” he says.

Besides running the store, Pendlebury offers tasting evenings where he shares the history and knowledge about whiskies – to the last drop.

Entrepreneurs

From The Arab World To Africa

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Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi; image supplied

In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.

She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.

In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.

As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.

The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.

In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.

She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes. 

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Entertainment

Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty

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In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.

The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing. 

“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”

The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”

Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.

Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.

“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”

Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff, Hollywood & Entertainment

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Entrepreneurs

Covid-19: Restaurants, Beauty Salons, Cinemas Among Businesses That Will Operate Again In South Africa As Ramaphosa Announces Eased Lockdown Restrictions

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South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation announcing that the government will further ease the country’s lockdown restrictions.

Restaurants, beauty salons, cinemas are among the businesses that will be allowed to operate again in South Africa.

The country is still on lockdown ‘Level 3’ of the government’s “risk adjusted strategy”.

President Ramaphosa also spoke on the gender based violence in the country.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that I stand before the women and the girls of South Africa this evening to talk about another pandemic that is raging in our country. The killing of women and children by the men of our country. As a man, as a husband, and as a father to daughters, I am appalled at what is no less than a war that is being waged against the women and the children of our country,” says Ramaphosa.

Watch below:

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